cardiac output

r | graphic violence | disturbing content

"This has been such a shitty weekend."

Mira stretched out on the couch. It wasn't particularly comfortable, but it served its purpose.

"I had to get this in before I go. I'm on vacation next week. Well, not a typical vacation; it's an experiment called 'Dcom' - dwelling for the cohabitation of Mars. That's the story, anyway. If what the guy running the project told me is true, it's actually going to be much more fun and interesting than you'd think."

Her phone beeped and she sat up to check it. Groaning in disgust, she tossed it back in her purse.

"At least, it sounded like a lot of fun, until I told Eric and he insisted on trying to sign up, too. I said space was limited, and there probably wouldn't be room, but he managed to get in anyway."

Her phone beeped again, and then again, and again, so she picked it up and shut it off.

"Sorry about that. Eric wouldn't last two minutes on a real Mars mission, you know. He's a complete idiot. You're probably thinking he's my boyfriend; he's certainly gone around telling enough people that I'm his girlfriend. But it's not like that."

The cheap cushion on the sofa was giving her a neck cramp, so she knocked it out from underneath her head.

"I was curious, when I met him. He's clearly pathetic. He's not rich or attractive or anything like that. Actually, 'not anything' would be a perfect description of him. But he reminded me so much of my very first. I was too young to really appreciate my first time, you know. I think most people are. You're so hung up on if you're doing it correctly, and so overwhelmed by the newness of the experience, and the skin, and all the fluids, that you don't get to fully appreciate it. So I was curious, and I studied him, and that involved getting close to him, and now of course, spending time with him just makes me want to kill him."

For the first time since she lay down, she looked over at her companion.

"You've probably figured out that I don't mean that in the metaphorical sense."

Grey eyes met hers. She assumed, based on previous experience, that the look on his face was this "terror" thing she had read about. He tried to scream, but the heavy layer of duct tape over his mouth prevented that. The bruise on his forehead was developing into a rather beautiful shade of violet. His wrists were bloody from where he had struggled against the zip ties, and he probably had more bruises under his clothes from trying to get out of the heavy restraints that held him to the table.

"The problem is that they always suspect friends and family first. If Eric gets murdered, they'll look at me, and I can't have that. When you end up dead, the police will investigate your wife and children before anyone else. Probably your business partner, too. Considering you gave your wife gonorrhea that you got from having an affair with your business partner, and neither of them are going to have alibis tonight, cops probably won't look farther than that."

He banged his head against the table and she quickly got up, knife in hand. As soon as he saw the blade glinting in front of his face, he stopped.

"Now, now. I need you alive until I decide I'm ready."

More muffled screams.

"My mom used to say that obstacles are only obstacles if you let them be that way. I'm assuming she did mean that in the metaphorical sense, because if the bridge ahead of you is out, all your happy thoughts aren't going to create a magical rainbow bridge for you to walk across."

He wiggled his legs under the restraints, trying to get them loose.

"I'm going to try to look at Eric coming with me to Dcom like an opportunity, though, instead of an obstacle. It may give me a chance to get rid of him in an environment where I wouldn't be suspected at all. I was assured I could eliminate whoever I want, whenever I want, however I want. Can't kill them all, obviously, but honestly, even if I only get Eric out of my hair, it'll be worth it. The money will just be icing on the cake."

He let out a low, guttural sound from his throat as he stared at her, eyes wide and pleading.

"It's fascinating, what fear does to normal people. You have to know there's no way you're going to be able to yell loud enough to draw attention, and even if you could, you saw when I dragged you out of the trunk that we're in the middle of nowhere. On some level, you are rationally aware that you're wasting your energy, but you do it anyway."

She circled the table, trailing her knife in an outline around his body. When she returned to her starting point, she tapped the side of his head with the blade, watching as the tears fell from his eyes.

"I'm going to give you some advice, even though you're not going to be alive long enough to really use it. There is a chance that reincarnation is a real thing, insofar as it has not yet been proven false, so if you end up being reborn, try to hold on to these bits of information. When you're reincarnated, you're supposed to attain a higher plane, or come back as a better being, right? Maybe you could try to come back as a person who isn't going to be the victim of a serial killer. You should focus on that as your goal."

He shook his head and tried to scream again.

"If someone restrains you with flex cuffs, you want to get your arms out in front of you. You're a skinny guy with long arms, so really, you should have been able to pull that off when I had you in the trunk. You get them in front of you, you tighten them as much as you can by pulling on them with your teeth, you get the locking mechanism centered between your wrists, and then you bring down your arms against your body with as much force as possible. It's child's play. Literally. I was dating this guy who had two daughters and I taught them how to do it. They were only five and eight. It's too late for you to do anything now, since I have you strapped to the table, but you should have thought about this before. How can I feel bad about killing you when you're so clearly an idiot?"

He turned his head to look at her, and the expressions she had thought were "fear" and "sadness" were gone, now replaced with something else. His nose was wrinkled up and he seemed to be squinting at her, with his eyebrows close together. His breathing had increased, based on how his nostrils were flaring up just above the layers of duct tape.

"Ah! Is this anger? I think I'm getting better at guessing these. Is that your corrugator supercilii?"

His 'fuck you' was muffled by the tape but she still managed to make it out.

"Okay, I think that's enough. It's always better to do this when the person's sufficiently agitated. I guess having to generate that fear -" She opened her mouth in a mock surprised gasp. "- keeps your heart from just shutting down the minute I start digging around in there. Touching your heart when it's still beating is always preferable."

He began to struggle again when she picked up a pair of rib shears.

"I read somewhere that you actually shouldn't use these to cut ribs, as they might leave a rough end that you can cut yourself on, but they're much more convenient than the bolt cutters I had been using. Not to mention easier to carry around. You just have to make sure you don't have nosy boyfriends poking around in your purse."

She set the specialized cutters next to his head and began unbuttoning his shirt. His head thrashed from side to side, until she lifted up her knife and brought it down, hard.

"I always make sure I cut them far enough away so that there's no risk of me scratching myself, anyway."

Snip. Snip. Snip.

"This is not my first 'goat fuck', as one of my exes used to say. I still don't understand what that means, exactly."

Snip. Snip. Snip.

"I assume it's a reference to bestiality, but why that phrase entered the lexicon to describe a situation in which the participant isn't a novice, I have no clue."

Snip. Snip. Snip.

"He also used to - what the fuck?"

She had pried off the ribs and wrapped a hand around the warm, beating organ, only to discover that it felt nothing like human flesh.

"You have an artificial heart? Seriously?"

She glanced at his face but there was no longer muscle movement to analyze.

"Are you already dead? Just from this? Are you kidding me? You probably lose more blood when you go donate."

Even though she was no longer interested in it, she removed the offending organ, noting that was more difficult to rip out than the real thing. It was the right size, the right shape, and it might have even felt normal to someone who didn't know what they were doing. The fake flesh was designed to mimic a human heart in every way, but Mira could tell.

The lump she held in her hands had never generated fear, or sadness, or hope, or love. It never made its owner surprised or elated or desperate or anything. All it did was push the blood around the body. It was just a pump. It was a useless hunk of polymer and electronics, and it would teach her nothing.

In frustration, she dropped it to the floor and kicked it against the wall.

"You know," she said as she began to pace. "Serial killing is basically a second job. I had to take the time to observe you. I had to learn your routine. And all this plastic, and the zip ties - well, they are cheap, but only really if you buy in bulk, and that is a rookie mistake. I invested in you, and not once did you have the decency to let me know that you didn't even have a real heart. You pretended like you were normal, like you had feelings like the other human beings. But you're just like me. You were just faking it."

The only other sound was the blood dripping off the table.

"Now I have to clean all this up, haul your body to the dump site, and for nothing. I don't mind hard work, but not if there's no payoff."

Drip. Drip. Drip.

She sat down on the couch and folded her bloody arms over her chest.

"This weekend could not have turned out any shittier."